How safe is Medical marihuana ?

marihuana rx

Is Medical Marijuana Safe? Does anyone really know?

By Gary Askin


As of April this year, Canadians have a new way of accessing marijuana in Canada. The new regulations, can be found under the Health Canada website under the Marijuana for Medical Purposes (MMPR) regulations.

With Liberal leader Justin Trudeau calling for marijuana legalization and an anticipated 1.3 billion dollar a year (by 2024) pot industry about to explode,corporate executives are now eagerly rubbing their hands together and lining up to get into the legal pot business.

But with all the fuss and giddy anticipation one wonders; is medicinal marijuana actually safe to use? Did it pass through Health Canada’s time consuming, arduous approval process, as every other drug has to, before it is unleashed on Canadians? Have we conducted appropriate clinical trials? How about pharmacology, toxicology or micro biology testing?

This seemed like a simple question when I started my search at the Health Canada website.  I found three companies listed as licensed marijuana producers.

Cannimed Ltd, Mettrum Ltd and a group called the Peace Naturals Project which were  granted Health Canada’s approval to produce and sell marijuana to Canadians.

I checked their websites to see if they could assure me that their medical marijuana is safe for consumption. It’s interesting that Cannimed and the Peace Naturals websites, address marijuana safety in their FAQ section.  Unfortunately, neither will answer their own question. Both responses are eerily similar and discuss testing for ingredients and contaminants, and a recall process “in the unlikely event of a problem”.

Wait a minute, what? They don’t elaborate on what kind of problem they refer to.

Mettrum doesn’t have a FAQ page on their website but state they will be offering a marijuana product that will meet or exceed 17% levels of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC  which is the active ingredient that makes you high)

You heard that right. 17 %  THC.

If you’re my age the stuff they were passing around at the Flock of Seagulls concert in 1980, boasted a mind altering 1-2 % THC.

ted marihuana

This reminded me of the scene from the movie TED where Mark Wahlberg’s talking stuffed bear is telling him of new highly potent strain of pot called “This may be Permanent”, “They’re Coming They’re Coming” and one blend called “Gorilla Panic”

17 % thc in marihuana- is that safe?

I did not get an answer from the licensed producers whether or not this new high-powered, ultra potent, medicinal marijuana is safe to use. I went back to Health Canada to ask the  professionals. Surely the scientists who are tasked with our safety and health care needs and whose goal is to;

“Communicate information about disease prevention to protect Canadians from avoidable risks” and who’s mission is to provide Canadians with  “credible information and reliable advice”  

and can answer two simple questions pertaining to marijuana’s safety and approval process.

After 7 calls and an email to various divisions tasked with providing information on medical marijuana no one would or could answer my questions.

Each time I asked, I was directed to send an email asking the same questions.

No one would volunteer their last names and kept referring me back and forth from the MMPR program to the  Regulatory Project Management Division to the Consumer Product Safety Division.

Same answer “send an email”.

I did get a call back from Christine Leroux an employee of the Regulatory Project Management Division, who felt I should call Healthy Environments and Consumer Safety Branch to get my answers.

I called them and asked the Health Canada employee;

“Did marijuana go through the same testing process as other approved drugs?”

His response “I’m not positive”

I asked “Is it safe to use?” I was told I would have to send an email as he could not comment on such an issue.

I replied  “If you work for Health Canada and can’t tell me if a drug is safe to use? Do you know who can?

“No comment”.

I never dreamed that two simple questions would be so difficult to answer by the persons entrusted to look after the health and safety of Canadians.

After a day of attempting to get answers on marijuana safety and approvals from our entrusted Health Canada officials, and  navigating throughout the massive Health Canada website, I stumbled upon a posting on the Health Canada website;

Cannabis (marihuana, marijuana) is not an approved therapeutic product and the provision of this information should not be interpreted as an endorsement of the use of cannabis for therapeutic purposes, or of cannabis generally, by Health Canada. Cannabis has not been authorized through the standard Health Canada drug approval process because the available scientific evidence does not establish the safety and efficacy of cannabis to the extent required by the Food and Drug Regulations for marketed drugs in Canada

There it was. The corporate messaging no one at Health Canada could give me.

It appears Health Canada doesn’t know if medical marijuana is safe (or effective).

This was a simple question. The answer was they just don’t know.

We have all heard stories of ground breaking medications being developed and used in other countries that Canadians can’t access as they haven’t been studied and approved.

Why is marihuana the exception and why did our government overlook all the protective rules and processes designed to ensure our safety, just to fast track this drug into our hands?

pot pharmacist

Health Canada has had its critics in the past. When it set up the initial Medical Marihuana Access program in 2000, it allowed prescribed users to grow pot in their own residences. The dangers of marihuana home grows have been well documented. Yet Health Canada allowed these potential fire hazards to exist throughout our country.

When requested by Waterloo Regional Police Chief Matt Torigian to identify these locations, to mitigate our community and EMS workers from potential explosions and or fires, Health Canada refused to divulge where they were located or even how many there were.

A follow up discussion with David Juurlink an MD, a clinical pharmacologist and drug safety researcher at Sunnybrook Health Sciences center in Toronto, about Health Canada’s decision to approve the addictive generic form of oxycodone stated:

“What little is known about how drugs are given the ok, would alarm Canadians dependent on them, and even the doctors prescribing them”

Health Canada never approved medical marijuana and yet with no scientific evidence of safety or efficacy, it’s available for use anyway.

When I pick up my cholesterol medication the pharmacist briefs me on dosages, contra-indications, how and when to take it and just in case Im not listening, he staples 3 more pages of information to my little pill bag.

Not the case with medical marihuana. With a prescription it will arrive on your door step. No briefing, no information on clinical trials or potential addiction. No idea what will happen when you consume it.

Unfortunately, if someone has an adverse medical reaction to the 17 % thc levels of our government sponsored marijuana ,it will not be because of a missed, miniscule detail or a small flaw in the system.

It will be because this is exactly how the system has been designed.


(ps  as of January 24/2014 Health Canada stills hasn’t returned my emails with an answer)

Gary Askin is a recently retired police officer who is now a licensed private investigator.

The Social Media Tool you really need (and its not Facebook)

Originally published in Blue Line magazine November 2012

I caught my 15 year old daughter doing something extremely embarrassing the other day. I walked into the family room and there she was lying on the carpet, feet up on the couch and she was- if you can believe it, talking on the telephone.

I was stunned.

“What are you doing?” I said pointing to the adult only communication device.

She flashed me that you are too stupid to live look that only a teenager can pull off.

Her:     “It’s a phone why wouldn’t I use it?”

Me:      “I dunno, you have spent the last 4 years constantly texting, BBM’ing, Tweeting and Facebook’ing. I’ve never actually seen you use a telephone” 

Her:     “This is so much easier” as she rolled her eyes in disgust “And I don’t get creeped”

Interesting, I thought to myself. I wondered if my teen was getting weary of social media in general and did she just use “creep” as a verb?

My three teenage kids have always been the barometer for me on what’s in and what’s “so two hours ago”.

I knew about Down with Webster, hash tagging and Heelys before any of my fellow parents. My kids are continually opening my eyes to new opportunities and don’t hesitate to let me know what is passé.

Teenagers are realizing what, law enforcement already knows about Facebook; that communicating your likes, desires, wishes and friends builds a database on yourself.

Facebook sells this information to advertisers. Facebook ads reflect your interests which is no coincidence.  But which other creepy people are also exploiting this open source information?

As a cop, it’s a wonderful tool for us to have criminals populate their own dossier profiles for us.

As we saw in the N.H.L. hockey riots last year in Vancouver, some suspects can’t help but post pictures of themselves committing crimes. They may as well just nominate themselves for arrest.

Continue reading

Waterloo Regional Police Partner with Pop star

The Waterloo Regional Police develop an innovative anti-drug strategy where the youth of the community develop our anti-drug messaging. We also partnered with pop star Nate Hall who became an advocate and spokesperson for the contest, the police and  healthy choice decisions.

Here is a short video on why the contest was developed and its results.

Sarah Bernardo  of Waterloo won best song with this  original tune

Richard Holmes BMX Free Ride with message earned him first prize in the Best Video category

Nate Hall

The War on Drugs and other Disasters

The War on Drugs and other Disasters

A new theory on how police are not in  the War on Drugs and never have been and an  alternative solution.

An Ignite Waterloo talk by Gary Askin at the Perimeter Institute, Waterloo, June 12/2012.

“When did the neighbourhod cop become the soldier”

Waterloo Regional Police Service use innovation and creativity to trap 3 killers

As reported in The Record, the WRPS utilized some incredibly innovative and creative skills to ensnare the three  killers of Nadia Gehl.

The police were even commended by two of the three defense lawyers.

Here’s their story…..

TheRecord – Laying the trap to catch Nadia Gehl’s killers.

First Follower Leadership in Moneyball

There is a scene in the  Brad Pitt movie,  Moneyball where Billy Beane (Pitt)  is being offered a huge contract from Boston Red Socks owner John Henry. Henry is describing how Billy Beane revolutionized the game of baseball and demonstrated incredible success yet still faced intense criticism from his peers and  the media.

John Henry –“I know you’ve taken it in the teeth out there, but the first guy through the wall. It always gets bloody, always. It’s the threat and not just the way of doing business, but in their minds it’s threatening the game. But really what it’s threatening is their livelihoods, it’s threatening their jobs, it’s threatening the way that they do things. And every time that happens, whether it’s the government or a way of doing business or whatever it is, the people are holding the reins, have their hands on the switch. They will bet you’re crazy.”

I thought about this scene when my friend and part time super model, Kim Hodgson sent me this  video.

Titled “First Follower Leadership Lesson from Dancing Guy”  The video illustrates just how important the first guy through the wall is to the leadership dynamic.  Click on this link  and take a minute to see this video-


Here are some lessons from the Dancing Guy Vid;

1) Leaders must be easy to follow and embrace the first followers

2) First followers are under-appreciated- it takes guts to be a first .  The leader is nothing without his first follower.  One is the flint the other the spark.

4) It becomes about the followers not the leader

5) The  first followers must be seen because the new followers are following them -not the leader

6) This creates momentum and a movement.  Others can join the crowd without fear of riducule

7) Leadership is over glorified. Its the first follower that transforms the “nut” and creates the movement

Whether your a crazy dancing guy or Brad Pitt ,  Leaders of all types who are comfortable in their own skin, approachable and embrace their followers  -shouldn’t be afraid to assume some risks, look silly or venture into uncharted territory. Be prepared to get bumped and bruised along the way and remember- the leader doesn’t exist without the first follower.

– gary askin

New Jersey Devils Coach Peter Deboer teaches a cop a few things

Coaching our Staff for Success

by Waterloo Regional Police Service

Superintendent  Gary Askin



Have you ever wondered what makes a National Hockey League coach successful? Several years ago a friend of mine decided to find that out and spent a few days job shadowing an NHL coach. His purpose was to examine the coach’s leadership style and to determine what made him a successful coach. When he told me about his experience it struck me that our own community must be full of leaders that we can learn from.

Learning outside of formal police institutions and within our own community has many benefits. It meets our organizational goals and values as they pertain to staff development, partnerships, teamwork, and excellence, while injecting a police presence into the community.  I decided to put this into action.

Some say growth only occurs while operating outside your comfort zone, so with this in mind I decided to select a local leader with whom I’ve had no previous connection. I wanted to determine what challenges they faced, what leadership skills they utilized, and whether those skills were transferable to policing.

Before moving onto New Jersey, Peter Deboer was the coach of the Kitchener Rangers Ontario Hockey League team. Peter was one of the most successful coaches in the OHL and now ranks fifth in wins among all coaches. He has won the Memorial Cup, a gold medal with the Team Canada Juniors and has been named coach of the year twice. He is recognized as one of the OHL’s elite and is now coaching the Devils in the playoffs.

Armed with 200 interview-style questions and a digital recorder I met Peter at the Kitchener Rangers head office. From the moment I walked into his office Peter was gracious and receptive. We spent several hours talking about his career, motivation, development, and the challenges he has faced as a coach. Continue reading

Compronet-using Twitter to report and dispatch?

Fascinating, innovative and powerful software being developed in the Netherlands will be a game changer for cops and the public.  This takes crowd sourcing and citizen engagement to a new level.  The video speaks for itself.


Breaking the Law of Unintended Consequences

by Superintendent Gary Askin


During the days and weeks after 911 police stumbled upon a weapon so powerful it virtually halted drug trafficking and reduced crime. Best of all it was free, it required no judicial oversight, no legislative authority to govern it, and no Police Board approval to use it.  As police officers, this was our finest hour and we didn’t even realize it.  We unwittingly created a scenario that Sociologist Robert Merton identified in 1936 called  “The Unanticipated Consequences of Purposive Social Action.”

What exactly is that? Consider this example

In the 1981 movie Body Heat, William Hurt’s lawyer character hatches a plot with his lover, played by Kathleen Turner, to murder the woman’s husband.  While plotting, Hurt receives some sobering advice from an experienced criminal client, portrayed with trademark style by Mickey Rourke

“I got a serious question for you”, says Rourke.  “What the (expletive) are you doing? This is not (expletive) for you to be messin’ with. Are you ready to hear something? I want you to see if this sounds familiar: any time you try a decent crime, you got fifty ways you’re gonna (expletive) up. If you think of twenty-five of them, then you’re a genius… and you ain’t no genius”.

In the simplest of terms, Rourke was citing the well-known Theory of Unanticipated Consequences.   In 1936, Sociologist Robert Merton wrote “The Unanticipated Consequences of Purposive Social Action” in which he discussed how our decisions and actions can and will always result in unintended consequences.  Sometimes these are positive, and sometimes they are negative, but the theory holds that we cannot always know which will occur, and the unanticipated consequences are often well outside our control.  The power of this law has been well recognized by economists and sociologists for decades but curiously, ignored by most of us in the policing profession. Continue reading